Metropia -- Film Review

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Venice Film Festival -- International Critics Week

VENICE -- Roger (voiced by Vincent Gallo) works a squalid job and lives in a squalid apartment in Sweden in 2024, when oil has run out and an elaborate subway system links the European continent. The future looks bleak in "Metropia," the computer-animated sci-fi feature by Tarik Saleh.

The film starts promisingly. The animation technique is a highly stylized reworking of photographs, mostly of people from the streets, with the exception of one "actor," Alexander Skarsgard, whose character is based on his face. The colors are mostly gray tones with the sharp, disturbing animation that works well for a thriller. However, "Metropia" is weighed down by a convoluted plot.

The subway along with most of society is owned by the nefarious Trexx Corp. Its head, Ivan Bahn (Udo Kier, whose very voice inspires chills), has developed a novel way to control people's thoughts and lives. One day, Roger hears a voice in his head that at first tries to convince him is his conscience. But it turns out to be Stefan (Skarsgard), who is somehow connected to the mysterious Nina (Juliette Lewis), Roger's dream woman (and the face of a popular dandruff shampoo brand) whom he stumbled upon in the metro.

Stefan is one of the many who monitor the "normal" people through microchips ingeniously planted in their brains. Roger finds out how and why through Nina, who has her own secret plans and needs him to carry them out.

The problems in this ambitious four-year project lie in the screenplay. Characters' actions make little sense. They are easily distracted from earth-shattering revelations or dangers and do not seem very motivated to save their own lives. In the climax, Bahn's trained henchmen simply look on as Roger runs, giving him just enough time to make a getaway.

Rather than being tongue-in-cheek, the story and its protagonists in such moments seem to be in earnest. So the suspense suffers. The fact that the main characters are voiced by American actors, yet live in Scandinavia, further seems at odds with the story.

Production: Atmo
Sales: Trustnordisk
Voice cast: Vincent Gallo, Juliette Lewis, Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgard, Sofia Helin, Shanti Roney, Fares Fares
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard
Director: Tarik Saleh
Screenwriters: Stig Larsson, Fredrik Edin, Tarik Saleh
Producer: Kristina Aberg
Director of photography: Sesse Lind
Art director: Martin Hultman
Music: Krister Linder
Editor: Johan Soderberg

No rating, 85 minutes